The Toronto Raptors have to be thrilled with the performance of Scottie Barnes in the early stages of the 2023-24 season, as the transition away from a Pascal Siakam-led philosophy has Barnes taking an advanced role on the offensive side while becoming even more deadly on defense.
Barnes is averaging 21.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on the offensive end while putting up a robust 1.5 steals and 2.1 blocks per game in what has been his best defensive showing in his career. The Raptors’ 4-4 record was aided, in part, by Barnes taking over at the end of games.
While Barnes was always a talented player, the Raptors are finally starting to see what he could be as a primary initiator on both ends. Toronto has been witness to not only a solid start, but one that has been unprecedented since all of these stats have been recorded.
Barnes is the first player since blocks and steals became a stat in 1973-74 to average more than 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game during their first eight games. There’s no other way to spin this except heaping tons of praise on the Toronto stud.
Toronto Raptors SF Scottie Barnes first in 50 years to record hot start.
On the offensive end, Darko Rajakovic has found a good blend of leaning on what Barnes does well while encouraging to expand his game. Barnes is still getting to the rim and using his power against mismatched defenders, but he’s been a more willing and effective shooter from 3-point range.
Rajakovic’s defense has focused less on switching and more on letting his best on-ball defenders shine. Barnes hasn’t been as dominant as OG Anunoby, but he’s used his physical gifts both on the perimeter and in the paint to give Toronto the league’s sixth-best defense in terms of defensive rating.
The fact that Barnes finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a win against the Dallas Mavericks is quite an impressive feat. Even when he isn’t at his best, he is still more than capable of putting up some very gaudy numbers.
The Raptors are going to let Barnes cook in an offense that prioritizes movement off-ball and always making the extra pass. Coming from Nick Nurse’s very bland, iso-heavy attack, this change has given Barnes the exact shot in the arm he has needed for so long.